Friday, October 17, 2008

Devotional Thoughts for Sunday Oct 19th 2008

19th October 2008: St Matthew 23:1-12

This passage is relevant even today. I don't have the moral courage
to read it as it is a direct condemnation then and now of the
priestly tribe who have made everything a ritual, a tradition, a
practice which is lifeless; two main thoughts arise from this passage.

Priesthood is God ordained.

Priest hood is divine and it is established as per detailed
instruction to Moses. Priest is one who intercedes; a person to stand
between God and man as required by God. Specially anointed to serve
at the altar. In the Old Testament it was the Priestly tribe, Levi;
in the New Testament era Christians form the new priestly tribe and
all are anointed and anyone can be called by God to the post.
During ordination service it is declared that the Holy Spirit calls
you to be a deacon or a priest; showing that it's the work of the
Holy Spirit, not man. Not because of merit but by grace. Only God
knows why a person is called to the priesthood. But one thing is
certain that whom God ordains He sustains and protects as the apple
of His eye and empowers them with His Holy Spirit for His own glory.
Even the high priest plotting to kill Jesus was used to utter a
prophecy "that it is better that one man dies for the sake of all the

King Saul anointed and ordained as king; but when he attempts to do
the priestly duty he is rebuked and rejected by God and stripped of
the kingdom and the divine grace. Those who spoke against Moses were
punished. Priests seated on the seat of Moses and apostles are used
as instruments to foretell and forth tell and act as instruments for
God. This is the only reason why people shower so much of honour on
them; but times are changing.

It is only (we find in Acts.) when the apostles lay their hands that
one receives the anointing of the Holy Spirit.-holy chrismation.In
short; indeed it's a great privilege and honour and blessing for
mortals to serve at the altar and to take in their mortal hands the
immortal body and blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and
handle the keys of heaven; at which the angels and arch angels
tremble and marvel at.

Infidelity to the call condemned.

Infidelity is every where it has crept into the selected ones also;
Christ condemns seven times this hypocrisy and laments over it. The
situation then and now is not very different. Introspection will
prove that this passage is sadly quite relevant today.

The screening committee lamented (its heard) no suitable candidate is
available for the post of bishop.
It requires divine grace to foretell. Leave alone foretell, we can't
even forth tell which just requires true selfless humanity; those
very few who dare to do so are cornered and destroyed.

Serving at the altar is a privilege by grace, not a job or a
profession; today many have taken it up as a profession that offers
decoration, pomp, glory and importance.

There is no love; definitions of love by a committed youth at MGOCSM
centum meet at Kalyan-in front of distinguished clergies were thought
provoking; "lost over virtual emotion or lust over virtual emotion";
this has polluted the atmosphere. We are not able to show true love –
Jesus Christ; to the people around us.

Priesthood should be an honorary service; like St Paul they should
earn their bread by the sweat of the forehead and then find quality
time to serve at the altar; then the present surge to become
ministers will be quality oriented and divinely inspired.

Life is the greatest sermon. It is often ridiculed that the clergy
don't have time to meditate or study the word of God nor practice it.
How much faithful are we to the call?, we are to live by the word of
God (it is no doubt many new groups are harvesting plenty of worldly
wealth, by the word God; many of our members do attend these groups
only because of their thirst for the word of God; we are insensitive
to the need of our people and we don't provide their needs, but are
quick to condemn these poor people who go begging for the Word of
God.) Written in our heart

Zacharia f/o John the Baptist got the chance to serve only in his
late age by lots; there he saw the angel of God, Today irrespective
of our eligibility the grace of God permits us to serve at the altar
or partake of it whenever there is Holy Qurbana,

"Light, music, decoration and action" is the style of the day which
has engulfed even Christendom; there is pomp and glory but no
essence; there is celebration and fire works but no personal
encounter or experience. The sad part is that, no one is concerned.

Apostles were ordinary (but with divine experience and extra ordinary
power) people without any pomp or glory or the royal insignia or
status which today has corrupted everything.

Rightly did Mrs. Eliot mother of noted poet T.S.Eliot wrote about a
century ago, that:

"In the days of old
We had chalice and paten
Of wood
But the priests were of gold

Now we have
Chalice and paten
Of gold
But the priests
Are all wooden."

The book of Exodus and Leviticus describe in detail the life expected
of a priest; Christians are priests, their ministers are only elders
leading them. Can we both clergy and laity alike rededicate ourselves
to lead the life that the Lord has called us to lead?

Fr.N.S.Varghese, Mumbai.

NOTE: NS Varghese achen recently completed 25 years of ministry as a priest. He serves
in the diocese of Mumbai, is the first Malayalee born and brought up outside
Kerala to be ordained a priest of the Holy Church. Please click below to read
more about NS achen:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An Interview with Rev.Fr.N.S.Varghese ( Mr.John Kochukutty &
Mrs.Gracy Mathew)

On 24th April 2008, Rev. Father N.S.Varghese completed 25 years of
his ordination as a priest. It was a historic occasion, as he was the
first malayalee born and brought up outside Kerala to be ordained as
a priest in the Orthodox Church.

Achen was born on April 19th, 1954 to Mr.N.V. Skaria and Mrs.
Mariamma Skaria. Achen was brought up in Kalyan and completed his
studies there. Achen was a good student and was always first in his
class. His qualifications are B.Sc (Hons), B.Ed, M.A, M.Phil, DHTS,
GST, B.D. Achen completed seminary education in 1981 and became a
Deacon on May 11, 1981 at Kottayam Old Seminary. Achen got married on
12th July 1982 to Geetha and they have two children – Joel & Joan.

After attaining full Deaconhood on 21st December 1982 at Devalokkam,
Achen was ordained as a priest on 24th April 1983 at St. Gregorious
O.C, Chembur, Mumbai. Achen has served in the following churches as
the Vicar - St. George Orthodox Church, Nashik, St. Stephens Orthodox
Church, Thane, St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Kalyan, St. Baselios
Orthodox Church, Kalina, Santacruz, St. George Orthodox Church,
Kalamboli, Asst Vicar St. Gregorios Orthodox Church, Baroda, St.
Mary's Orthodox Church, Bahrain, St. George Orthodox Church, Mulund.

There was a grand felicitation ceremony on April 27th at Mulund
Church to celebrate the 25th anniversary of ordination. The function
was presided over by His Grace Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, Metropolitan
Bombay Diocese. Members from Mulund and other parishes where achen
has served with distinction spoke in glowing terms of his
contribution. Coorilos Thirumeni in his address spoke of the unique
aspects of his creditable service.

Achen firmly believes that, "Whom God ordains God sustains. God may
not call qualified people but he qualifies people whom he calls. And
those who kneel before God can stand before anyone."

We met him on the previous evening (26th April) at the St. George
Orthodox Church, Mulund and caught him in a reflective mood. We
discussed about his experiences so far.

Q. Tell us about your childhood and education.

A. We were two brothers and two sisters. We grew up in Kalyan
and had our schooling there. My father was employed at Bombay
Hospital and mother was a housewife.

Q. What would you have liked to be if you had not become achen?

A. I have felt no other calling; in fact I wanted to be a priest
right from my childhood.

Q. Why did you decide to be an achen? What motivated you?

A. Initiation into spirituality was divinely inspired. I used to
have visions and felt a migration of soul. I have also had
experiences of floating in the air. Once when I said a lie, I felt so
bad that I could not read the Bible and cried. Another experience
that I remember is when, I read that the people for the kingdom of
God are already selected (Rev); I cried asking" What about me?" That
cry still remains within me.

Q. How did you prepare your self for the ministry?

A. Preparation was difficult. I was handicapped by my inability
to read Malayalam. Most of my early learning was from protestant
churches, including various correspondence courses that I did. My
mother has played a big role in my development. She ensured regular
prayers and Bible reading. We could learn most difficult Malayalam
prayers. (Achen smiles.) She used to punish us when we made mistakes.
Daily prayers, serving at the altar regularly has also helped me
prepare. Of course, later I went to the seminary and learnt from
Chandy sir and other Malpan achens.

Q. How was the experience at the seminary?

A. Overall experience at the seminary was not very spiritually
uplifting. I felt vastly disillusioned, maybe I had great
expectations. Maybe I was too idealistic. However the faculty was
great and the ambience of the chapel was very serene, I found great
solace in my prayers there. I certainly wouldn't like to go through
the Seminary experience again (Smiles).

Q. What is your biggest personal disappointment?

A. I wanted to do many things especially for the youth outside
Kerala. I wanted to do something like gospel ministry. But I have not
been able to do anything to realize this dream. It is only when you
become a priest that you realize the boundaries of what you can aim.

Q. Who is your mentor? Who is your ideal to follow your ministry?

A. The Late HH Mathews II Bawa has touched my life. I was in awe
of his dignity, the holiness and sincerity of his conduct. The other
mentor was HG Mar Theophilus, I consider him a saint. He could see
the goodness in worst of people. He always liked to be punctual and
neat, in everything that he did. I felt very privileged, that both
these Fathers confided many secrets to me. I was touched by the
simplicity of Abraham Malpan who could never tell a lie

Q. Many families have tradition of having priests, would you
recommend anybody from your family to take up the priestly vow?

A. Unless you are called you cannot be a priest. There is no
point in elevating a person to priesthood unless he is inclined.
Making a person priest due to family tradition may not be successful.
I would like my son to be a priest, but he has shown no inclination
so far. If he has to be a priest, then I am sure that God would
prepare his heart in due course of time.

Q. How do your fellow priests and parish members perceive you?

A. I am sure everyone feels I am a good priest, but they do not
see me as a good friend because I do not say things to please people.
Most people consider me outspoken, a disciplinarian and a
perfectionist. That is the way I am and I have always believed in
keeping my dignity and distance in obedience to what vattakunnel Bava
taught "Pattakaran Janam agalle".

Q. How do you handle criticism? How do you handle gossip?

A. I prefer to go and cry at the altar, there I can say
everything without fear of being accused and criticized. I can
unburden myself and also get a feeling of being comforted and
consoled, that is why I cherish the Holy Qurbana don't encourage
gossip and what I got to say, I say directly to the person concerned.

Monastery of the Holy Martyrs - Orthodox Monastery, Syriac Orthodox

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